It is really hard to think about spring turkey hunting when there is ice everywhere and three feet of snow on the level.
I have never been much of a turkey hunter. I am sure the cause of that is the fact that I went with some great turkey guides and blanked a zero after four years of trying. Sometimes a turkey is dumber than a stick and other times they are smarter than any human.
In the past, you needed to apply in a lottery to hunt in one of the five seasons and designate which particular area or zone you wanted to hunt in at the time of application. The five distinct seasons start on April 15 and end on May 31. The earlier seasons are when hunters have the most success.
If you submitted for an early season and lots of other hunters did, too, you might not get drawn. If you were unsuccessful you could buy an over-the-counter license if there were areas that did not fill up.
Well, all of that has changed this year. Now you can purchase a turkey tag for any season and be assured of getting a tag. Tags go on sale on March 1. You also no longer have to decide ahead of time where you want to hunt because all of the zones have been eliminated with the new changes. This means you can hunt any season anywhere in the state.
If you hunt one season are not successful, you can buy another tag for the last season time period and try your luck again. Kids hunting by gun or bow and adult hunters who hunt with a bow can hunt all of the seasons until they kill a tom.
The skeptics say that this will pile large numbers of hunters in concentrated areas for the early season dates and cause friction between those hunters. This might be true. You don’t want five hunters all in the same area trying to kill the same group of turkeys. If this happens, the result is that most likely very few hunters will be successful.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is not too worried about this, but they will be monitoring the situation and make changes next year if this in fact does happen. There are three big wildlife management area units that still have lottery requirements but none of them are close to southwest Minnesota.
Turkeys were in Minnesota when the settlers came but were wiped out of the area by about 1900. The first successful turkey restocking efforts were done in 1973. Now turkeys are everywhere in the state that has suitable habitat for their survival.
They prefer hardwood stands, and oak trees play a big part in their world.
I will have to give this pastime another try. Hunters who have a turkey hunting obsession have it to a greater degree than many white tail deer chasers. Those who love it love it to the Nth degree.
The new changes to the turkey hunting regulations will make it easier than ever before to either continue this sport, rejoin the sport, or to join in as a new adult or youth hunter.
Speaking of turkeys, the Jackson County Struttin’ Toms chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is having a big event at the Jackson Minnesota Legion on February 19. This is going to be a gun bingo with 10 games of bingo, and the winner of each game can choose a gun from over 30 that will be on display that night.
Ten bingo cards (one for each game) costs $50 and is limited to the first 125 attendee tickets sold. You can buy an additional bingo card once you get there if you chose. The doors open at 5 p.m. with the first game starting at 6 p.m. Food will be available with a special sandwich menu for that night.
Vance Johanning, owner of Pawn It on Oxford Street in Worthington, has the tickets for the event on sale now. He explained that there will be a large variety of handguns, rifles and shotguns to choose from. Any winner can trade in or trade up their winning gun for any other gun offered by Pawn It in Worthington for only the difference in their values.
There is not much going on this time of year, so get a few friends and make a trip to Jackson. The National Wild Turkey Federation will spend the proceeds of the event to help promote and improve turkey hunting opportunities across the Midwest. For more information, call Vance at 507-376-6633.